How to Record Your Screen on a Mac for Free

Screen Record Mac Feat

Recording your screen on a Mac used to be a real trial, but it’s now a straightforward process. In fact, there’s a native solution to record the screen on your Mac with high-quality video to boot. For this post, we show you how to record the screen on your Mac using the built-in tools and a few choice third-party ones.

Using the Native Screenshot App to Record Your Screen on a Mac

For the unaware, the native Screenshot app can also record your screen. You can find it using the keyboard shortcut or open Screenshot through Spotlight or your usual preferred method for opening apps.

  1. Press Command + Shift + 5 to open Screenshot. It will display as a floating toolbar at the bottom of your screen.
The macOS Screenshot toolbar.
  1. There are two options to record your screen: record the entire screen
Record Screen Screenshot Entire 1

or a selected portion of your screen.

Record Screen Screenshot Portion 1
  1. With the “Record Selected Portion” option, you’ll need to make a selection on your screen to indicate the area to record, then click the “Record” button in the far right of the toolbar.
Selecting a boundary in Screenshot.
  1. Your recording will start. Note that there will be no sound in your video by default.
  2. When you finish the recording, press the Stop button in the menu bar (or Touch Bar, if you have one). The toolbar may disappear for you. If this happens, use the Command + Shift + 5 shortcut to bring it back up.
The Stop button.
  1. The video will appear as a floating thumbnail in the lower-right corner of the screen. You can swipe this away or wait a few seconds if you don’t need to edit the video. However, you can carry out an edit if you click the thumbnail itself.
A recording thumbnail.
  1. This will reveal a preview pane with an icon to trim the video.
The Trim icon.
  1. Click the “Done” button to save the video or the trash icon to delete it. If you close the video with the “X” button, Screenshot will save the video for you without edits.

The Screenshot Options Menu

Screenshot has a few options related to recording your screen. To reveal these settings, click on the “Options” button in the toolbar next to the Capture/Record button.

The Screenshot options.

The following are notable screen recording options:

  • Save to. You can select where your video recordings save, and by default, this is the Desktop. Other than the few quick select options, you can also set a custom location.
  • Timer. This option waits for a specific amount of time before the recording begins. “None” will start the recording straightaway. Alternatively, you can choose either five or ten seconds.
  • Microphone. Depending on the devices connected to your system (such as an external microphone), there will be a number of inputs to choose from here. The default is “None.”
  • Options. There’s one option here that may be helpful: “Show Mouse Clicks.” If you enable it, there will be a highlight around the pointer every time you click the mouse or trackpad.

While there aren’t many options to wade into, there’s enough here to make functional recordings. However, there are other solutions – also free – that give you more flexibility.

Using QuickTime Player to Record the Screen on Your Mac

For Mac users, QuickTime Player is a stalwart for the whole macOS experience. It’s a functional way to view all sorts of media. In this case, we can use it to capture the screen.

  1. To do this, open QuickTime Player.
  2. You should see a file browser, but if you look to the toolbar at the top, you can choose “File -> New Screen Recording.”
Choosing a new screen recording in QuickTime Player.

However, once you open this, you’ll notice the layout is familiar. This is because the Screenshot app and the QuickTime Player’s capture algorithm are one and the same. As such, the process to record your screen is as we outlined in the last section.

It’s worth noting that once you finish the recording, the resultant video shows as a QuickTime file.

A QuickTime file ready to play.

The functionality here is exactly the same as Screenshot in that you can trim the file and little else. You find this in the “Edit -> Trim” menu rather than using an icon.

Using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to Record the Screen on Your Mac

Those who stream will know OBS – it’s a fantastic, open-source way to capture your screen on Mac. The software is complex, but capturing the screen can be straightforward.

  1. Open OBS and look to the Sources section at the bottom of the window.
The OBS Sources panel.
  1. Click the Plus icon to choose a source for your recording.
The Display Capture option.
  1. Once you choose this, name your recording, then decide whether you want to view your screen during the recording. In most cases, you won’t.
The Display Capture screen.
  1. Once you click OK, you’ll have to select some further options, such as whether to show the cursor and the cropping.
The OBS Recording Properties.
  1. Click OK again to be brought back to the main OBS screen.
  2. To begin the recording, choose the “Start Recording” button on the right side of the screen.
The Start Recording button.
  1. When you’re ready to move on, click this button again to stop the recording.

Using VLC Media Player to Record the Screen on Your Mac

The VLC Media Player is an open-source solution. We have previously shown how to use VLC as a video editor. By extension, this app can also record the screen on your Mac.

  1. To do this, open the app and head to the “File -> Open Capture Device” screen.
The Open Capture Device link in VLC.
  1. This will display the “Open Source” screen, specifically the “Capture” tab:
The Capture tab in VLC.
  1. From the drop-down at the top, change “Input Sources” to “Screen.”
The Screen drop-down in VLC.
  1. This gives you a few setup options, with the most important being the choice of screen and the Frames Per Second (FPS). You can also toggle audio for your video recording.
  2. Check the “Stream output” box, then move into the Settings screen.
VLCs Streaming options.
  1. Here, choose an “Encapsulation method” from the drop-down list that corresponds with your chosen format, then select a suitable format from the Transcoding options for video.
  2. Once you select a location for your file, you can click “OK -> Open,” and the VLC Media Player will commence recording.
  3. Once you finish, click the Stop button, and the video will save to your desired location.

As covered in our article on using VLC as a video editor, you can use a wide range of options to edit your screen recording. However, the Transform option is on by default. To turn this off, follow the instructions below.

  1. Open the video in VLC and go to the “Window -> Video Effects” options.
The Video Effects link.
  1. Head to the Geometry tab and uncheck the “Transform” setting.
The Transform tool.
  1. From here, view your video – it will look as intended.

Four Third-Party Screenshot Apps to Help You Record the Screen on Your Mac

If you want a little more out of your screen recordings, there are a few apps available. We are highlighting four we think will do the job well.

1. CleanShot X

CleanShot X is a fantastic premium app for capturing the screen with images or video.

Record Screen Cleanshot X

You can choose to record the screen from the toolbar menu.

The Record Screen option.

This will bring up a full screen menu to help you set things up as you’d like.

The CleanShot X Capture overlay.

This lets you set up the dimensions for the recording, along with the ability to show clicks and keystrokes. Once you finish the recording, you can trim the video and convert it.

Editing a video in CleanShot X.

The app is $29 for a one-time payment, and for this price, it’s a steal. There’s also an option to use cloud storage to host your captures, starting at $8 per month.

2. Screenflow

Screenflow is a true professional-level video capture tool. At $228, it’s a pricey app. However, you’re getting a lot of features for those dollars, and there’s a free trial to give it a whirl.

Record Screen Screenflow App 1

The app includes a full video editor, including titles, transitions, animations, multi-channel audio, and more. With the built-in stock library and streamlined media management, you can create highly produced videos from your desktop.

If you need high production value screen recordings and don’t want to mess around with a separate editor, ScreenFlow will cover almost all of your needs.

3. Snagit

Snagit marries power and ease of use in a friendly, practical interface that’s easy to use and navigate. It comes with a price tag of around $50 but is inexpensive compared to other applications, and there’s a free trial available to take the app for a test drive.

The Snagit app.

Snagit’s editing tools are way more powerful than Screenshot, with an actual timeline and a wealth of editing tools. You can also record audio from your system output or your external microphone.

Snagit is ideal for any kind of tutorial or instructional video or capturing streaming video playback for archival or distribution. Its balanced cost and performance makes it a reliable favorite for anyone who writes instructional content.

4. GIPHY Capture

For very simple jobs, you could consider using GIPHY Capture. While the name makes it clear that it’s a GIF-making app, it can also record video.

The Giphy Capture app.

The app’s simplicity makes it uniquely useful. It won’t capture any audio, and output options only include GIF, MP4, and animated JPEG. The editing tools are extremely simple but functional enough, with basic trim controls and options for superimposed title cards.

If you only need a few seconds of video, GIPHY Capture may give you what you need. That it’s free means you have nothing to lose!

How to Record Your Screen With Sound

A few of the apps on this list will let you also record sound along with your video. In many cases, the functionality is rudimentary, but it’s fit for everyone.

For example, VLC Media Player gives you this option when you open the “File -> Open Capture Device screen” as shown earlier.

VLC's capture audio options.

Here, you’ll check the “Capture Audio” box, then select your device from the drop-down menu.

CleanShot X also offers surprising flexibility, allowing you to record with a microphone and your computer’s audio independently from one another. Once you choose to record your screen, you’ll select the correct options from the menu overlay in the middle of the screen.

CleanShot X's capture audio options.

The computer audio recording requires a driver that the app will administrate, and the results are solid. This is another reason why CleanShot X is such a great tool, as is Snagit, which offers the same functionality.

Of course, Screenflow and OBS also provide you with the functionality to record audio, albeit on a grander scale. OBS gives you two Sources: Audio Input Capture and Audio Output Capture:

The OBS audio input options.

The former captures microphones, and the latter computer audio. This all ties together through an audio mixer that sits on the main OBS screen. From here, you can also access some advanced audio properties:

OBS' advanced audio options.

This provides you track selection, whether your microphone records in mono or stereo, and some basic audio monitoring options for specific use cases, among other settings.

Conclusion

For most users, the native macOS Screenshot tool will provide almost everything you need to record the screen on your Mac. Because there are so many free options, you’ll have many other solutions at your disposal. However, you may also have the need for a premium solution, especially if you have a professional need to record the screen, such as streaming.

If you’re looking for the best live game streaming platform, we have a great article on the subject. Also check out our review of Video Proc Vlogger, easy and free video editing software.

Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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